Road Trip 2019, Week #2

Stop #6 Butte, Montana WalMart

After several ascents and descents, our last climb up to the Continental Divide put us at almost 6400 ft before we descend into Butte, Montana. We elect to boondock at WalMart since this location is considered RV-friendly.

  • $0, **** with a 1-star deduction for the street sweeper at midnight.
  • Elevation 5538 ft.
  • Streaming, 3 bars T-Mobile

Did you know Evel Knievel was from Butte? He is buried in the cemetery just across the street. Supposedly, this grave stone was made in 1974, before his attempt over Snake River Canyon and put in storage. It was shipped to MT in 2007.

For more info:

Be sure to check out the 1970 movie with George Hamilton for free on Amazon Prime.

Stop #7 Salmon Lake State Park. Seeley Lake, Montana

Finding ourselves homeless heading into a holiday week (4th of July falling on a Thursday, seems to have made the whole week a holiday), we took the only reservation we could find for two nights at a State Park, 40 miles north of Missoula.

  • $34/night (peak non-resident, $24 residents), 50-amp, water available, no dump station.
  • $10 online reservation fee
  • $5 vehicle entrance fee
  • YIKES! At least we’re not at an RV park.
  • T-Mobile at Clearwater Junction rest area then no service until the campground (occasionally, 1 bar with WeBoost Sleek booster).
  • Elevation 3917 ft

There is no dump station in the park (apparently a MT thing…), so we stop at Clearwater Junction rest area on the way in and pay the $4 fee on the honor system.

Local history. Norman Maclean is from the area and wrote the book, “A River Runs Through It” at a cabin just north of our campground:

“The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.”

Stop #8 Harvest Host. Missoula, Montana

With no cancellations at Salmon Lake and our reservations in Grangeville not for a few more days, we explore the boondocking options in Missoula which includes two Harvest Host locations, Cabela’s and a WalMart. Both Harvest Hosts pan out and pretty soon we are parked and ready to explore the area.

  • Stop #1 is lunch with friends driving through the area from Indiana to Seattle–and yes, it looks like there is a few RV/bus parking spots behind the Cracker Barrel also!
  • Tourist stop #2 is the Smokejumpers Visitor Center at the airport, the largest in the country (think hotshots with airplanes). If you want to know more, I recommend “Smoke Jumper: A Memoir”, by Jason A. Ramos.
I miss the money shot of the Sherpa taxiing out, with the mountains in the background because we are discussing how many fuel stops it would take to get to Alaska!
  • Tourist stop #3 is Big Sky Brewery, the home of Moose Drool. The Captain had a flight which resulted in Trout Slayer coming in a reasonable second. The CoPilot discovered a gluten-free Huckleberry Spiked Seltzer. Too bad they don’t serve food.

Hwy 12 over Lolo Pass, a part of the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Our last leg into Idaho is Highway 12 over Lolo Pass (5233 ft) in the Bitterroot Range of the Northern Rockies. It’s also called “Idaho’s Northwest Passage Scenic Byway” and was once used by the Nez Perce Indians and crossed by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Luckily, it’s the morning after July 4th, so traffic is light. As we follow along the Lochsa River in the National Forest, the road gently rose up to the pass and back down with lots of pull-outs, occasional passing lanes, and several cyclists. Average speed 45 mph.

However, once we turned on Hwy 13 towards Grangeville, we began to climb again (?!) and our average speed dropped to 35 mph as we twisted and turned our way through a few small towns— with a one-lane construction zone as we arrived.

Are we glad we did it? Yes, it’s a beautiful drive.

Would we do it again? No, not this season!

Thank you engine brake. Hello, sixth gear.

“Very pretty but the longest 170 miles I’ve ever driven…”

Stop #9 Grangeville, Idaho

  • Weekly rate $215
  • Elevation 3399 ft.
  • T-Mobile 2 bars & streaming.
  • Campground wifi usable.

We arrived a day ahead of our reservations so they offered us dry camping for one night, which ended up having 30-amp, a water spigot and a wonderful view (although not even remotely level but we’ll take it).

My first Idaho sunrise with some virga over the mountains…

Stay tuned for our tourist wanderings in Grangeville in Road Trip 2019, Week #3!


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